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Los Alamos Monitor

The Los Alamos National Laboratory this month expanded the use of a fluorescent bulb-crushing machine to handle waste bulbs lab-wide. It's a move that could save tens of thousands of dollars in waste disposal fees and will prevent mercury from escaping into the environment.

The device is called a Bulb Eater. It attaches to the top of a 55-gallon drum and works like a large food processor.  Workers load fluorescent bulbs into a tube, which then sucks them through a propeller-like set of blades, pulverizing the bulbs.

"What you would see inside the drum is a fine glass powder and a couple of beat-up end caps. That's it," said Jim Stanton, a contractor working on the project for the Maintenance and Site Services (MSS) Division.

Fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury vapor and must be labeled, boxed, and disposed as a type of hazardous waste.

"Every box is a compliance point," Stanton said.  "In a landfill, if you get enough fluorescent bulbs you eventually get that mercury leaking into the environment."

But the Bulb Eater captures the vapor in a three-stage filtering process and neutralizes it by converting the vapor to mercuric sulfide, which is non-hazardous.

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"No more challenges with fluorescent bulb and mercury recycling. We use the EasyPak recycling program and it is very simple and convenient for us."

Jim Slager, Homer School District 33-C

"It’s easy to work with TerraCycle Regulated Waste. Their personnel are very friendly and knowledgeable about their products and the availability of them."

Alice Johnson, Eastern Ship Building

"I am very satisfied with all the services TCRW performs. They do what they say they are going to do, and they are here when they are scheduled to be here, and their paperwork is easy. Their representative is very helpful and informative about all phases of service."

Hector Rodriguez, Mission CISD

"Excellent value for the money. The Bulb Eater® has immediately helped us reduce lamp storage and create a safer storage environment, while allowing us to add another item to our waste reduction efforts in the City of Auburn."

André Richardson Environmental Services, Auburn, AL